Reviews December 2012 week two

THIS! Magnificent film footage of Hope Larson & Bryan Lee O’Malley’s 2012 signing at Page 45. See Hope and Bryan jam on a sketch in front of you! Witness that massive queue in its entirety before the signing had even begun! Superb!

 - Stephen

Hope Larson & Bryan Lee O’Malley 2012 Page 45 Signing Jam Print (£4-99, Page 45) by Hope Larson & Bryan Lee O’Malley.

PAGE 45 WORLDWIDE EXCLUSIVE!

Sleek, chic and printed on quality stock with a perfectly judged sheen, this is exactly the same size as our now-sold-out 2006 exclusive. Yes, they match! We think about these things. A3, since you ask.

At the time of typing we still have some copies signed by Hope Larson, and a very few copies signed by both Hope and Bryan! These are the copies we’re automatically allocating on a first-come, first-served basis.

It’s such a beautiful image that I took home a virgin copy home, myself, giving one last soul the chance for a signed copy instead. If that’s important to you, you can either ring 0115 9508045 to check or… you do know that you can add notes, instructions or qualifiers to any orders online, right? So just click to purchase and add a note saying: “must be a copy signed by at least one of them, please” or what have you. If there are no signed copies, we will then contact you to tell you so.

There you go: FAQ.

All proceeds (not just profits but proceeds) on the day went to Hope and Bryan who took a day out of their unpaid holiday to see you, but the rest is now ours:. Cough up, please!

SLH

Buy Hope Larson & Bryan Lee O’Malley 2012 Page 45 Signing Jam Print and read the Page 45 review here

Ellerbisms: A Sporadic Diary Comic (£12-99, Great Beast Comics) by Marc Ellerby.

Oh! This is a complete revelation.

It is extraordinary how much difference thirty new framing pages, further recollections filling in context, and some highly judiciously editing makes to the coherence of this story. For, yes, it is now a story. ELLERBISMS online (and in the form of three comics) was entertaining enough as a diversion: some beautiful cartooning and hilarious self-deprecation. But from “a sporadic diary comic” Ellerby has now fashioned a far more nuanced saga of a single relationship with a beginning, a middle and… well… you can certainly see the patterns now. Here’s how it begins:

“Gatwick Airport 24th July 2007. I don’t want to say I was being emo but that’s exactly what I was doing. Sitting in an airport thinking of girls…

“I’ve been keeping a comic diary for a few months and so far it feels a bit empty… like I’m missing out important parts and there’s more to discover. My love life and career choice have never felt so similar. (God, I’m going to combine the two, aren’t I?)
“I’m sitting in the airport. Overthinking everything.

We’re most of usprone of overthinking things – I can get myself into a right tizzy – but putting it down on paper for the world to see, a permanent record of temporary doubts and demons, however much they may rattle round your head for some time, adds weight to them. It’s almost like putting yourself on trail and there’s a whole stack of evidence here. At one point Ellerby starts fixating on death. And that’s not completely surprising given certain earlier experiences I’ll leave to startle you just as much as they did me – and Marc, profoundly. But there he is all the same, sitting quietly at home as his girlfriend watches television, gazing into her happy eyes but completely unable to let go of his morbid obsession about dying; about being unable to think, feel or touch, experience anything new or again or being left all alone. Forever.

“I’m 26 and I’m fast forwarding to the end. Pondering the inevitable. Letting it get in the way of right now.”

There’s also a great deal of mirth, kindness and empathy, like Marc wondering about the lady living opposite, whom he can see through their windows.

“She stays up until the early hours smoking and doing crosswords. I got it in my head that she was lonely because she was alone. The first time I saw her I could’ve sworn it was my mum. Same hair. Same build. Same height. That’s probably what sparked off my worry to be honest. Now and again I’d hear her phone ring and I hoped it was a son or daughter. No one should be truly alone. I hope I’m wrong. I hope she’s the happiest stranger I’ll never meet.”

As to the mirth, there are films, gigs, holidays; texts, phone calls, comic conventions and showing your pubes off at parties. Acts of random stupidity, as you do. Marc will make you laugh, cry and cringe; but who hasn’t come out with some banter which sounded perfectly playful at the time, but in retrospect afterwards seemed woefully inappropriate? Particularly when the recipients are your in-laws. It’s like Momus’ The Complete History Of Sexual Jealousy (Parts Seventeen To Twenty Four) in that I couldn’t help ticking the boxes: “Yup, done that; oof, done that; oh, dear Christ, I’ve never done that!”

But Marc can also find comedy even on the unlikeliest of days even if it requires a little interpretation. Here he visits the doctor after overheating, losing his vision then panicking on a train… and a certain degree of pain ‘downstairs’. The doctor looks at him disdainfully.

“… Right. Let’s take a look, then. Well, it looks okay to me.”
A while later…
“Nothing stands out as being wrong and I’m not going to invest my time to find out. Here’s a prescription.”

You just ticked one of your own boxes, haven’t you? Still chuckling.

His guest stars areall great value for money. From the comics world you might recognise Adam Cadwell, Lizz Lunney, Jamie McKelvie, John Cei Douglas and John Allison. But the undoubted co-star of the book is Anna, the girl from Sweden whom he meets early on while working together in Waterstones. I was going to type “goth girl” for so she’s described at first, but that limiting label does nothing to describe the breadth of her character and effortless charm. Otherwise someone as eclectic as Ellerby really wouldn’t have fallen for her.

Here’s Marc:

“Did that film make you want to start smoking again?”
“Oh yeah. I was sitting there getting cravings. C’mon. That newsagents is still open. We can get some there!”
“I don’t even like smoking.”
“Yes you do.”
“Oh.”

While his line refines over time, the cartooning – the range of expressions with instant communicative impact is right there from the get-go. There’s more than a hint of O’Malley and there’s a lot of Matt Groenig particularly in the faces and especially the eyes and profile. It’s all wonderfully elastic whether it’s blissed out happiness, uh-oh, OMG or tender, yearning looks of contrition. Best of best, maybe, both Marc and Anna’s freezers, glowering looks of withering grrr, are spot-on. He’s not immune to tears, either:

“I don’t know why Country Feedback affects me so much. Hearing it in person for the first time is an overwhelming experience. Maybe it’s the selfish lyrical aspect that I associate with low points in my life… (I need this) … but when Peter Buck glides through his guitar solo… it’s like he’s putting my past demons to rest. I never thought I’d ever hear it live… I’m so glad I’m sharing it with Anna.”

Over the course of more than 250 pages, Marc shares a great deal with Anna. The relationship is the core of the book. They live together, travel together, see friends together. They share food, films, laughter and secrets.

But hindsight is a cruel little monster.

Take May 9th 2009 and the simplest of scenes in a Toronto bar where the two sit gazing contentedly at each other in silence. Then Marc says, “If I had a ring on me, I’d ask you to marry me.” “If you had a ring, I’d say yes.” Then there’s Toronto Comic Arts Festival precisely one year and a day later. Ellerby’s with some friends on a panel, answering a question and addressing the audience.

“I guess, yeah. I want to end ELLERBISMS or at least stop for a while. But, hmm, I don’t know how to end it, like. The right strip hasn’t come along yet.”

This is where the context comes in: the new pages, and not just the prologue and epilogue. Already honest about his own drunken jealousy over the attention Anna receives from the comicbook industry by taking the time and trouble to talk to the likes of Top Shelf while Marc holds gingerly back – his outburst is vicious and ungrateful – it’s indicative of the new balance, context and coherence that the Bristol Comic Convention sequence from 10th May 2008 onwards (exactly two years earlier to the day) appears substantially altered in the book. Far from disguising his uncharacteristically mean-spirited misbehaviour, it instead emphasises its seriousness, the impact it had on Anna, and her far more forthright reaction. As originally presented the argument was more of an isolated outburst smoothed over between the couple comparatively quickly. Once you know how the books ends, with an impressively considered epilogue, it’s a great deal more halting.

I mention this because Marc sends out special thanks in the back “to Jeffrey Brown, James Kochalka, Liz Prince and Craig Thompson who do this sort of thing better than me”. And certainly they did, when Marc first set out. But with publication of this ELLERBISMS collection, with its range and heart and its tenderness and his weaknesses – as well as his outright buffoonery – Marc has earned his seat right alongside them. I’d rack this right between James Kochalka and Jeffrey Brown and rank it their thoroughly affecting equal both in insight and entertainment value.

SLH

Buy Ellerbisms: A Sporadic Diary Comic and read the Page 45 review here

Pocket Full Of Coffee (Signed & Sketched In) (£4-99, Retrofit Comics) by Joe Decie…

“How shall we brush them?”
“Brush them like Spider-Man.”
“Spider-Man! Spider-Man! Does wh…”
I do not know where my boy learnt so much about superheroes…
“No. Like the Hulk! You won’t like me when I’m angry!”
… or how they’ve become woven into our toothbrushing routine.

Heh heh. I am very much looking forward to introducing my daughter to superheroes, I must say. It will make a most welcome change from Winnie the Pooh and friends, who seem to be her chums of choice at the moment. That aside, this day-in-the-life story of Joe spending time with his son, whilst trying with varying degrees of success to perform other essential adult tasks, will ring many bells, a veritable cacophony in fact, with those people who have children. It certainly did with me. As commentary on precisely just how your daily routine will never quite be the same again after the introduction of your very own personal tornado into your life it’s absolutely bang on, even down to Joe’s slightly wistful observation that he doesn’t even have time to indulge in mild hypochondria any more.

What makes this work so beautifully amusing is Joe’s art though. The combination of such precise, well defined and indeed angular linework, all gently worked over with a light monochrome wash of tone, plus his own unique lettering are simply a pleasure to behold. The closest comparisons I could make would be to say I find him almost perfectly in the middle of Gipi (GARAGE BAND, THEY FOUND THE CAR, NOTES FROM A WAR STORY) and Guy (PYONGYANG, BURMA CHRONCILES, JERUSALEM, SHENZHEN) Delisle. And let’s face it, that’s not a bad place to be!

Now obviously those two have relatively disparate styles, but I mean it in terms of if Guy Delisle were to try and emulate the style of Gipi, he’d probably end up doing something exactly like Joe. Plus Joe’s matter-of-fact, gently resigned observations about his family life, are very much like Guy’s when genially reflecting on his own family: insightful, amusing and always heartwarming. I could, therefore, easily read several hundred more pages of his material and not be remotely bored. So come on Joe, let’s have some more please! One final thing to mention, this is a day-in-the-life story after all, so when you’ve read the last panel, just turn back and have a quick look at the first one again… Very funny.

[Editor’s note: all Page 45 copies come signed with individual sketches of household objects subsequently commented upon – brilliant!]

JR

Buy Pocket Full Of Coffee (Signed & Sketched In) and read the Page 45 review here

Grandville vol 3: Bete Noire (£16-99, Jonathan Cape) by Bryan Talbot…

“Please take your seats and we’ll get down to business.
“Business is what it’s all about, my friends, when all’s said and done. Business. It’s why we’re here.
“Business… industry… our reason to be, our way of life… our history and our destiny… is under threat and it is our patriotic duty to defend it… against the people. For the good of the people.”

Slimy Baron Krapaud (well, he is a toad), is the richest person in all the Empire, and he means to keep it that way. He and his fellow industrial plutocrats are highly perturbed by the recent overthrow of Napoleon XII and the establishment of the Revolutionary Council who intend to hold imminent elections that will give true power to the people – an obscene dictatorship of the people, as Krapaud puts it – so he intends to bring a very abrupt halt to the march of democracy indeed.

Meanwhile, there’s been a murder in Grandville of a celebrated artist. It’s your classic locked room case, where a life has been taken yet no one has apparently entered or left the crime scene, and unsurprisingly it’s got the police baffled. So much so that Chief Inspector Rocher of the Paris Prefecture feels the need to call in some outside expertise, in the form of Detective Inspector LeBrock and his faithful sidekick, Detective Sergeant Roderick Ratzi, of Scotland Yard. Given LeBrock left a little piece of his heart behind the time he visited Grandville, he’s keen to see if can he offer a helping paw… and perhaps pay a visit to a certain lady of the night to renew acquaintances whilst he’s there.

Part three of Bryan’s increasingly epic steampunk vision picks right up where volumes one and two left off, with socio-political intrigue and unrest, dastardly crime, slow burning romance, and more than a few fur-filled flying fists too! Yes, first and foremost this is a murder mystery as LeBrock once more brings his Holmesian deductive abilities to bear, but it’s also far more than that, as Bryan takes the time to make more than a few choice points about the current fiscal and political inequities in our own society, whilst also entertaining us once more with those humorously sly references to various pop culture anthropomorphic icons, which will inevitably tickle those of us of a certain age.

As ever there is so much to admire in the art too as Bryan pulls off that hardest of tricks, which only true masters of the anthropomorphic tradition such as himself and Juanjo BLACKSAD Guarnido can manage with aplomb, by making use of distinctive animal features for maximum dramatic effect, yet doing so in such an incongruous manner that you do completely forget at times it’s an anthropomorphic work, until of course their very animal nature is part of a rib-tickling punchline.

But whilst the anthropomorphic characters do indeed rightly form our central cast, there is as before one additional brightly shining star, the city of Paris itself, as Bryan quite literally goes to town with the impressive and imposing architecture of the jewel of the Empire. It’s the attention to detail that Bryan puts into all his works that makes them masterpieces, though: check out the parquet floor in the section set in the Louvre and you’ll instantly see what I mean. I look forward already to people asking, as we have had ever since the first volume was released, when the next volume of GRANDVILLE will be released! Err… and I’m one of them!

JR

Buy Grandville vol 3: Bete Noire and read the Page 45 review here

Deadbeats (£14-99, SelfMadeHero) by Chad Fifer, Chris Lackey & I.N.J. Culbard…

“You all right, Hank? You’ve barely said a word the whole drive.”
“Guess I’m not used to getting shot at.”
“Yeah, well, it’s never easy.”
“When were you shot at?”
“The war, France. You know that.”
“What? You were in the band. You never saw any action.”
“We were with the infantry. Things get boring out there. Sometimes the soldiers wanted to see us tap dance. Pass the time.
“You serious?”
“Wish I wasn’t.”

Ah, the life of jazzman, never easy. Still, things are about to get a lot tougher for Lester, Hank and Willie. And that’s even taking into account they’re already on the lam from gangster Tony Carbone after Lester gave him a knuckle sandwich at the mob wedding they were playing, all to save a damsel in distress. Cue a road trip to Riverside, Mississippi, as the lead started flying. It’s not a total bust, though, as they’ve got another gig already, playing a midnight funeral for a preacher’s wife. Despite Lester’s best attempts to convince Hank and Willie it’s all going to be a breeze, it very quickly starts to become evident this isn’t your typical send off!

Spooky spine-tingling art as one would expect from Ian Culbard fresh from his recent Lovecraft fright-fests (AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS, THE CASE OF CHARLES DEXTER WARD, plus the equally excellent and soon to be collected zombie / upper crust mash-up NEW DEADWARDIANS) which actually provides some unintended genius misdirection, for me at least, in that I kept completely forgetting this was a comedy!

I was so focused on Ian’s portrayal of first the fisticuffs and car chases, then by the sense of foreboding that begins to envelope our happy go not so lucky trio as they head deeper into the boondocks to begin to prepare for their command performance, that every time Lester would whip out a tension-relieving (mine that is) wisecrack, I was ‘aha, yes it’s a comedy!’ And a very funny one too, actually. It’s not always the easiest task melding horror and genuinely amusing comedy, getting the laconically droll gags in yet still keeping the scary element sufficiently serious and creepy. Chad Fifer and Chris Lackey have done a sterling job here though: part Ealing Comedy, part Hammer House of Horror!

One final comment, I absolutely loved Ian’s faux-aged cover, I had to do a quick double take at the first copy I pulled out of the delivery to check there wasn’t a problem with the lamination on the cover… I do worry about myself sometimes… Minus 3 sanity points just for being a complete fuckwit…

JR

Buy Deadbeats and read the Page 45 review here

Steed And Mrs. Peel: The Golden Game (£12-99, Boom!) by Grant Morrison, Anne Caulfield & Ian Gibson.

“Checkmate, Mr. Steed. Welcome to Waddington Hall.”
“Mr Chance! I hope I’m not late!”
“Not yet.”

Life is but a game for Steed and Emma Peel, but the Avengers TV series had some pretty specific if outlandish rules: deadpan, pun-ridden, quick-fire badinage; elaborated choreographed and improbably orchestrated fight / chase scenes; larger than life villains; Alice-In-Wonderland-style surreal sets and death-traps and, more often than not, a jaunt into the countryside for something not-quite-right.

Grant Morrison knows those rules, and here presents us with an impeccable full house, while HALO JONES’ Ian Gibson plays the game too, camping it up with his cartooning just enough but not too much, just like the series itself. His are perfect likenesses, with body language as elegant as Patrick Macnee’s and Diana Rigg’s. His British churches with their bucolic graveyards (three funerals and a picnic) are absolutely beautiful.

So, the Department has unearthed a mole within. “Trust no one,” warns Mother, as he dispatches John Steed in search of Tara King who has evidently been abducted following the murder of wargame strategist Admiral Fanshawe. But there is one friend Steed can count on: former cohort Emma Peel. The trail leads them to the Metropolitan magazine’s Agony Aunt, The Palamedes for creators of card and board games, and the countryside estate of Admiral Fanshawe himself with its somewhat eccentric façade and conservatory.

“Ships in bottles that pass in the night.”

There are, of course, the requisite riddles to solve, ancient animosities to settle and I did love the Department’s temporary HQ hidden in a surprising clean sewer system whose facilities are accessed via a public toilet cubicle. It has quite the flush.

SLH

Buy Steed And Mrs. Peel: The Golden Game and read the Page 45 review here

Department O #1 (£3-50, Monkey Pipe Studios) by Jamie Gambell & Andrew Maclean.

Another Page 45 UK exclusive! At the time of typing Page 45 is the only shop in the UK to have imported this full-colour, nocturnal romp. It’s isn’t carried by Diamond, no. We have 25 copies – sorry, we have 23 cop – right, we have just 16 copies left so fans of HELLBOY, BPRD etc, get in there fast!

“Now, if I was a recently deceased body… where would I be?”

The art with gorgeous colouring by Heather Breckel sold it to me on the spot. “Oooh, Mignola!” I thought. Then, “Ah, Mike Oeming, “I swooned, “via Kirby” I realised, “maybe Cloonan?” I pondered.

There be monsters! Out on the icy, snow-swept Russian-Finnish border there is a great big monster, as the sole survivor of what was evidently an epic battle drags the dying, bloody remains of his cohort from the rubble-strewn fortifications of a now silent, blood-soaked city.

Cut to London, midnight, where Department O’s latest operation has just got totally tits-up, leaving Jack on the run from six gargoyle-like Springheels. Yeah, that doesn’t end well. All the more surprising, then, that Department O is immediately called on by the port-guzzling pipe-puffing toffs at the top for a particularly delicate mission: to provide protection for an asylum-seeking diplomatic envoy of most unusual overseas aristocrats who have personally requested the presence of Department O’s Lord Blutstein. Lord Blutstein is a giant of a man with long white hair and an even fuller beard. So why exactly is he bound in chains deep beneath the Tower of London? Also: Southend On Sea’s beach is about to be breached by some terrifying midnight swimmers, which is one way of dodging passport control.

It’s all so delightfully eccentric, including its storytelling and story structure which had me smiling throughout. Again, think Mignola, particularly in AMAZING SCREW-ON HEAD mode. I’ve left plenty for you to discover for yourselves, including Mr. Zeikel’s own extracurricular Department O initiative, quoted above, involving a bloodied corpse and fizzing electricity. I have no idea what is up with Lord Blutstein alone at night in his “quarters”, though.

Sold!

SLH

Buy Department O #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Fury Max vol 1: My War Gone By s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Garth Ennis & Goran Parlov…

“Cuba. Christ, what a clusterfuck that was.
“It was the agency at its most stupid and most arrogant. There were so many hidden agendas that the right hand lost sight of what the left was doing from the get-go. And it cost more guys their lives than… oh, sweet fuck.
“But it got me where I wanted to be: right back in the goddamned front line.”

Following on from the recent success of the non-continuity Max exploits of the PUNISHER, another trigger-happy Marvel stalwart gets his turn. Yes, everyone’s favourite monocular Machiavellian maestro, cigar chompin’ Nicholas Fury, steps forward and centre to recount his exploits in some of history’s most horrific hotspots, beginning with Vietnam and then Cuba in this first violence-laden volume.

Devotees of Ennis will know that war history is a true passion of his, with fictionalised versions of true events being plotted to near-perfection in his War Stories and Battlefieds series. And this work is no exception as Nick covertly inserts himself into two black ops which both end rather disastrously, primarily due to the idiocy and ineptitude of those further up the food chain flying desks and shining seats with their asses. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose eh? As the French colonials are the first to find out in French Indochina, or Vietnam to give it the rather more familiar and colloquially correct nom de guerre.

Nick is on the ground primarily in an observer capacity, just keeping an eye on the creeping red peril as the rising spectre of Communism threatens to become the big challenge to the US’ burgeoning political global hegemony, all under the auspices of democracy, of course. Except in Fury’s world observing usually means working out precisely whose head it would be best to put a bullet in next.

I am enjoying this title immensely, I knew I would right from reading the title of the first issue ‘While All The Planet’s Little Wars Start Joining Hands’ which is a line lifted from one of my favourite The The tracks, ‘Sweet Bird Of Truth’, about a soldier reflecting upon his role in the carnage of war as the aeroplane he is on is about to crash-land, almost certainly fatally, in the Arabian Gulf. It’s a song which sums up the younger Fury’s combat lust to perfection. Live to fight, and don’t worry about the when the day comes to face the consequences. He’ll learn, and I’m looking forward to Garth’s exploration of Nick’s journey from young hothead to becoming a far more wise, and indeed cynical, head on very weary old shoulders indeed.

JR

Buy Fury Max vol 1: My War Gone By s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Avengers Vs. X-Men s/c (UK Ed’n) (£17-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron, Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Jonathan Hickman, Matt Fraction & John Romita Jr., Oliver Coipel, Adam Kubert.

Revised review after re-reading and oh, this does read infinitely better as a collection. It’s also incredible value for money, containing all thirteen issues of AVENGERS VS. X-MEN (don’t panic, the thirteenth was #0) but, unlike the hardcover, not AVX VERSUS (the fights; well, more fights – the fists they basically flew) which you can buy as a separate softcover.

In X-MEN: THE DARK PHOENIX SAGA we witnessed the gentlest of souls, Jean Grey, corrupted by the limitless power of the Phoenix. No one and nothing could stop her. She ate a whole sun for breakfast and so destroyed an entire solar system, committing mass genocide in the process. It didn’t end well, but it would have been worse if she hadn’t stopped herself – if she hadn’t committed suicide in front of her lover, Scott Summers.

Now Scott Summers is in charge of an endangered species. During HOUSE OF M mutants were virtually wiped out in the blink of an eye, and it’s only since X-MEN: SECOND COMING that there’s been any sign of blessed relief in the form of young Hope whose manifestation seems to have gradually triggered new mutants. Still, it has not been enough.

Now the Phoenix force is heading back towards Earth, its target Hope herself. To a desperate, beleaguered and increasingly militarised Scott Summers AKA Cyclops this could be the key to kick-starting the mutant race, the one and only opportunity he may ever be offered, and though he has danced with the devil before he is determined to make it work.

And it all. Goes horribly. Wrong.

Oh, I just sent shivers up my very own spine.

I wish they were merited, but honestly? Way too many cooks made for an unnecessarily stodgy broth. Apparently a major player died, but it took a customer to tell me because I couldn’t even tell. I thought he was merely hungover. Or was that me? Also, while trying not to give a key development away, although arguments about the benefits brought by the Phoenix Force were well made, this wasn’t Neil Gaiman’s MIRACLEMAN.

However, however, I did like the Vision’s reaction to Wanda suddenly turning up at Avengers Mansion: instead of welcoming his wife back or even raging at her for his own destruction (see AVENGERS DISASSEMBLED, and you are encouraged to do so – magnificent and the very place to start reading the team’s modern era!) he demands why, out of all potential strategies, she used his android body to attack his friends and destroy their home? Also, the best bit? Wolverine trudging across Antarctica “wearing” a polar bear, following a trail of beer-can breadcrumbs left by Hope so he’d find her.

Plus, it all made sense in terms of the trajectory of key characters – particularly Scott Summers – and the fall-out in the form of AVENGERS VS X-MEN: CONSEQUENCES written by Mr. Gillen gives us a credible and potentially thrilling new dynamic as seen now in Bendis’ ALL-NEW X-MEN. My favourite exchange may have been between Thor and a character possessed by the Phoenix Force.

“Stand down, boy – or I will call the storm and tear open the sky!”
“You’re threatening me with weather?”

SLH

Buy Avengers Vs. X-Men s/c (UK Ed’n) and read the Page 45 review here

AVX Versus s/c (UK Ed’n) (£12-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron, Brian Michael Bendis, Matt Fraction, Rick Remender, Kieron Gillen, Jeph Loeb & Stuart Immonen, Adam Kubert, Steve McNiven, Ed McGuinness, Mike Deodato Jr., Jim Cheung, Leinil Francis Yu.

Companion piece to AVENGERS VS X-MEN featuring further fisticuffs. Far from essential or even consequential, it was surprisingly entertaining when the right writers came along. And they are a mixed bunch.

Jason Aaron’s Magneto vs Iron Man – and they are one-on-one grudge matches, with side-notes on where they fit in – was science-saturated, brilliantly so, as the pair square off and let rip their own monologues. Kathryn Immonen takes that an absurdist step further and with her hilarious, single-panel one-page ‘Science Battle’ free-for-all pencilled by husband Stuart in which our two teams’ top technicians (Hank Pym, Hank McCoy, T’Challa, Tony Stark etc) wrestle each other to the ground with quadratic equations and mathematical theory:

“Giant Man, there is no need to introduce Euler’s Identity at this juncture!”
“Sure, if you’re not interested in representing polar co-ordinates in the Complex Plane, Jeffreys. No need at all!”
“Hank, you can’t even spell e to the power of iπ +1=0 where I is the Imaginary Unit.”

Et cetera. That’s what happens to teachers with too much testosterone.

The best episode by far, however, was ‘Verbal Abuse’ by Bendis & Mahfood in which Captain America and Cyclops trade puerile and increasing close-to-the-bone insults until each breaks down in tears.

“I thought your mutant power was being shockingly less interesting than your girlfriends.”
“Why don’t you dress as Nomad again and watch your book get almost cancelled?”
“Why don’t you go and ask Emma Frost what to do and say next?”
“Why don’t you go dress Rick Jones as Bucky again and creep everyone out?”
“Hey man. That’s not cool.”
“Not so boring now, am I?”
“I don’t know. Why don’t we ask Jean Grey? Oh, that’s right…”
“Not cool, man!”
[Runs away crying like a big boy’s blouse]
“Avengers versus X-Men: won.
“Oh, Bucky. Sniff.”

SLH

Buy AVX Versus s/c (UK Ed’n) and read the Page 45 review here

The Batman Judge Dredd Collection h/c (£25-00, DC & Rebellion) by John Wagner, Alan Grant & Simon Bisley, Glenn Fabry, Val Semeiks, Cam Kennedy, more…

Memory is a funny thing. I bought all four components of this collection as they came out and what I hadn’t forgotten was just how completely average the middle two parts were, in story terms at least, although the art is damn splendid. What I had forgotten though was just how great the two main book-ending chunks were, both in terms of the story and the art. The basic premise is pretty simple, of course, and follows the standard conventions for any good heroic team-up. The heroes meet then have a punch-up before teaming up to defeat the bad guys. And this is no different, but it’s written with such comedic panache by Wagner and Grant that it just works perfectly. A pissing contest par excellence between our two alpha males that’s never really going to get settled definitively because in each of their heads, there’s no question who is the top dog. The fact that they have bad buys to deal with is merely the side-show…

I really had forgotten just how ridiculously funny this first story was. But what really takes it to another level compared to the finest 2000AD fare is Bisley’s painted art. Again, I had completely forgotten just how truly impressive it is. It’s totally over the top with Batman’s ridiculously pointy ears and near-infinitely long cape plus a Mega-City One that’s never looked quite so completely insane. But that is precisely what’s required to make such a totally unbelievable story like this work. There’s no point getting into explaining the plot overmuch; suffice to say it involves Batman, Judges Dredd, Anderson and Death plus the Scarecrow with excursions to both Gotham and the Big Meg. Cue much wise-cracking and headcracking as the lawmen vie for the last word just as much as the knockout punch.

Parts two and three are, well, pretty weak stories frankly, and definitely have the feel of more run of the mill weekly 2000AD type material than a special event. Both seem primarily to function purely as teasers for the fourth part that brings the Joker and the rest of the Dark Judges into action, and which as I did clearly remember, whilst it is good fun, it’s not quite as strong a story as the first one. And that may well be why, in part, it was the last excursion for our dysfunctional duo. I can’t say I’m desperate for them to revisit the premise again, though no doubt if this hardcover collection shifts enough copies they will undoubtedly do so.

JR

Buy The Batman Judge Dredd Collection h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy

Reviews already online if they’re new formats of previous books. Otherwise the most interesting will come under the microscope next week, while the rest will remain with their Diamond previews acting in lieu of reviews.

 
Anomaly hardcover (£45-00, Anomaly Publishing) by Skip Brittenham & Brian Haberlin

Felt Mistress: Creature Couture h/c (£24-99, Blank Slate) by various, edited by Woodrow Phoenix

People I Know (£10-00, My Cardboard Books) by Timothy Winchester

Skeleton Key: An Alex Rider Graphic Novel (£9-99, Walker) by Anthony Horowitz, Antony Johnston & Kanako, Yuzuru

Revival vol 1 (£9-99, Image) by Tim Seeley & Mike Norton

Sonic Select vol 5 (£8-99, Archie Comics) by various

Elephantmen vol 5: Devilish Functions (£18-99, Image) by Richard Starkings & Axel Medellin, Shaky Kane

Parker vol 1: The Hunter s/c (£13-50, IDW) by Richard Stark & Darwyn Cooke

Journey Into Mystery vol 4: The Manchester Gods s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen, J.M. DeMatteis & Richard Elson

The Incredible Hulk vol 1 s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Marc Silvestri

Spider-Man: Danger Zone h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Dan Slott, Christos Gage, Zeb Wells & Humberto Ramos, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Steve Dillon

Deadpool: Dead h/c (£29-99, Marvel) by Daniel Way & Carlo Barberi, Ale Garza, Shawn Crystal, Salva Espin, Matteo Lolli, Filipe Andrade

Essential X-Factor vol 5 (£14-99, Marvel) by various

Spider-Men s/c (UK Ed’n) (£10-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Sara Pichelli

New Avengers vol 3 s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Mike Deodato, Neal Adams

Carnage USA s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Zeb Wells & Clayton Crain

Punisher Max: Frank s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Steve Dillon

Captain America vol 2 s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Ed Brubaker & Alan Davis

Daredevil vol 2 s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Mark Waid & Paolo Riveria, Emma Rios, Kano, Khoi Pham

Irredeemable vol 10 (£12-99, Boom!) by Mark Waid & Diego Barreto

Nausicaa Of The Valley Of The Wind Complete Box Set (£45-00, Viz) by Hayao Miyazaki

Bakuman vol 17 (£6-99, Viz) by Tsugumi Ohba & Takeshi Obata

Strobe Edge vol 1 (£6-99, Viz) by Io Sakisaka

Rin-Ne vol 10 (£6-99, Viz) by Rumiko Takahashi

Bleach vol 52 (£6-99, Viz) by Tite Kubo

Bleach vol 53 (£6-99, Viz) by Tite Kubo

Kimi Ni Todoke vol 15 (£6-99, Viz) by Karuho Shiina

 
Interview with Steve Pugh spanning his entire career and including news about a second collection of HOTWIRE.

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